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tv   Washington Week  PBS  October 30, 2009 8:30pm-9:00pm EDT

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gwen: the economy rebounds somewhat, but progress on health care, afghanistan and swine flu slows. tonight on "washington week." >> we're moving in the right direction, we're starting to make real progress on the road gwen: finally, good economic news. >> the 3.5 percent growth in the
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third quarter is the largest three-month gain we have seen in two years. gwen: with one at least one big exception >> i'm pleased that the gdp numbers this morning were up. but the question is, where are the jobs? gwen: the numbers tell the story as wall street heads up then down. while on capitol hill, the health care two-step continues with new democratic plans. >> i think people don't want to be on the wrong side of history on this gwen: and new hesitations. >> if the end it's not what i think is good for our country and most people living in our country, then i'll vote against cloture, i'll join a filibuster, and i'll try to stop the bill from passing. gwen: meanwhile, worries mount about the availability of the h1n1 flu vaccine. >> this is not a situation that is cause for panic gwen: but what to do?
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afghanistan-pakistan border,fresh casualties complicate the u.s. effort as secretary clinton talks tough to old allies. covering the week -- greg ip of the economist john dickerson of slate magazine and cbs news marilyn werber serafini of national journal and nancy youssef of mcclatchy news service >> celebrating 40 years of journalistic excellence, live from our nations capital, this is washington week with gwen ifill, produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for washington week is provided by -- >> we know why we're here, to redefine air travel for a new generation. >> to ensure our forces are safer and stronger.
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>> to take the world we share to tomorrow and beyond. >> around the globe, the people of boeing are working together to make a difference. >> that's why we're here. >> the johns hopkins global m.b.a. integrating international expertise with international understanding to develop leaders for a better world. the johns hopkins business school. where business is taught with humanity in mind. funding is also provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening weve given you so much bad news about the economy this year, it seems only right that we tell you when the news is good. well, mostly, kinda good.
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we heard yesterday the u.s. economy actually grew in the third quarter, the first time thats happened in more than a year. wall street soared. then today, sobering news. consumer spending dropped, incomes are flat, and wall street plunged. so, greg, is the recession over, or not? >> yes, just look at the numbers. the recession is almost certainly over. the economy contracted by an astonishing amount. but it grew 3.5% in the third quarter. but there is a great big asterisk next to that third-quarter number of 3.5. a lot of that growth came from essentially the temporary stimulus of government spending and programs. for example, a lot of the gain in consumer spending that we saw was people rushing out to buy cars. as soon as the program ended in august, car sales went back down. that's why september was a weak month. similarly we saw housing construction go up for the first time in over four years.
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again, some of that was driven by people taking advantage of the new home buyer tax credit. the big concern is that now that those things are expiring, unless congress extends them, can the economy gain traction? >> we saw vice president biden come out and other members of the administration say rah-rah, we created and saved, whatever the term is 650,000 jobs because of the stimulus program. is that so? >> we can't really say for sure because we can measure some of the jobs that were created by direct grants for infrastructure and spending and so forth. but tax cuts, that essentially putting money into people's pockets that they will go out and spend and create economic activity. you can't count them. i can't say that the vice president's estimates are consistent with what most wall street economists think that the stimulus plan did. unfortunately, all he basically said instead of losing 4 million jobs, we only lost 3 million jobs since the plan was signed. as you can imagine, the republicans are having a field
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day essentially saying that this is bunk. >> let me ask a question about, what more account president do? aren't there also a series of other measures that they're trying to push forward to show they're on the case and that they can still help people to get at this question of jobs? >> yes. ever since we had a bad jobs number a month ago, and i suspect there will be another unpleasant jobs number in a week's time, people in the administration and congress have been scrambling are showing they can do something. you have what i would call a stealth stimulus taking shape on capitol hill right now. it extending unemployment beffs for people that have exhausted them. perhaps extending the new home buyer tax credit up till april and offering it to people who own their own homes and a few other things like giving companies for their tax refunds. a lot of these things, though, i don't think are a very good idea. the home buyer tax credit, all you're doing is giving money large amounts of money they
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would have bought for homes anyway. the president endorsed of giving money to social security recipients because their cost of living increase is zero. inflation was negative. their actual real benefits went up. there are better uses for that money. >> do consumers really believe the recession is over? >> they don't really. consumer confidence went down in october. a poll that was done for the economist asked people is the economy getting better or worse? by a significant margin they said it's getting worse. clearly they don't believe it. their primary benchmark is what's happened to the job market and my job security. employment is still going down and will go down for a few more months. >> given all this news, then, can we expect a hike in interest rates? >> absolutely not. the federal reserve is meeting in the upcoming week. maybe they will modify the language to suggest that an interest rate increase will be coming, perhaps in the next six months. even if they do change the language, the odds of interest rates going up in the next six
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months are almost zero. frankly, the economy is extremely weak with unemployment so high, almost nobody can get a wage increase. that's an environment for inflation to go down, not up. the fed really has to maintain these ultraeasy conditions. >> it is interesting to me to see vice president biden come out and stand there with governor arnold schwarzenegger from california on his right and governor martin o'malley from maryland on his left. they said the federal government has done a great job and we only want more. are states as uniformly as supportive of all of this government intervention as they left that impression, one republican and one democrat? >> i would say so. one thing we can see from the numbers is that states are spending a lot more money than their tax revenues should support. that difference is coming from the federal stimulus programs. over the last six or seven months, a lot of the governors like mark sanford who said i am not going to take the stimulus money -- >> gwen: he got distracted.
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gwen: the other big issue looming on the domestic agenda is, of course, health care. the players are familiar. senator majority leader harry reid has his planhouse speaker nancy pelosi has her plan. republican leaders have no use for either of them. after weeks of focus on a single republican, maines olympia snowe, attention now swings to the moderate democratsand winning support from lawmakers like nebraskas ben nelsonwho wont say where he stands. >> no secret handshake, no wink, no indication whatsoever other than i haven't decided and i can't decide until i see the actual physical bill, get a chance to review. then i can make the decision. gwen: and then there is joe lieberman, the independent democrat who made clear this week reid will not get the 60 votes he needs to avoid a filibuster, if it comes to that. is it coming to that, john? >> it's come to that. and let's step back and look at what is happening in the senate. there are sort of two hurdles that harry reid needs to get
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over. there is unified republican opposition, he needs to get nonrepublicans to get the 60 votes to keep the filibuster from happening. the first obstacle is ben nelson. he is not going to let the conversation begin, let the speeches and debate begin on health care. he has to convince ben nelson. why would he want to stop things now? he has maximum levers to get things changed right now. if he gets past ben nelson, there will be a lot of debate on the floor. at the end there will be a question of a filibuster and that's where lieberman comes in. he has things he wants to change. they have to change or harry reid won't get the 60 votes he needs and have the final vote. there are a series of other moderate democrats who also have concerns about the bill that they want fixed. >> so when senator reid says in the third person, joe liebermannerman is the least of harry reid's problems, this is what he meant? >> anytime the majority leader
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has to speak about himself in the third person, it's time to steady himself. gwen: bob dole. >> things have gone wobbly. harry reid has problems in dealing with these different kinds of democrats. the republicans are giving him no help and he has got to shepherd a bill here through. one of the ways he tried to do that is he included this government-run plan, this public option that we have talked so much about. that's in the bill. that scared off a number of moderate democrats. he has to figure out how to get them back onboard. >> john, we're entering a really critical time for health care with a lot of negotiations going on in both the senate and the house. and president obama has a very busy schedule for november and it's not on capitol hill talking about health care. it's mostly in asia. what do you expect president obama's role will be at this time? >> he is out of town and he has a big afghanistan decision he has to talk about. there has been this question about when is the president going to engage? he has engaged in slow steps.
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he gave this address to congress that tried to regain control of the debate. basically, though, he is trying to give pretty much and movement where he can. he brought in some progressives into the white house for a meeting to talk about a house bill that we'll get to in a minute. he said basically that these liberals, take half or three quarters and declare a victory. let's insure a whole bunch of new people, putting regulations on the insurance companies to make them give more benefits to people. gwen: and they said to him? >> we're going to listen to you, mr. president. at least that's what it looks like for the moment. nancy pelosi and the house is trying to put together a bill, 2,000 pages. it's a big bill but includes all the goodies that people want to talk about. she needs 218 votes or a little bit more. she is working hard. she is buying them. she is trying to get those people onboard to have a win in the house and the progressives have said we'll go along -- we're talking about the public option which was a sticking
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point. they want more robust public option. they got a little bit less than they wanted. they listened to the president and they said we'll go along with this less powerful public option and we'll support this final bill. >> you mentioned the house bill. walk us through where the primary differences are between that bill and the senate bill because obviously, the house has all along taken a much more aggressive robust stance on the issues like the public option and how they're going to pay for it. >> there are tiki things to get the house bill passed. let's assume it does. what are the differences with the senate bill? even though harry reid has included a public option in the senate bill, it's not as robust as the liberals will like. it will have to be reconciled when the two paths join and the bills are put together. that's one problem. the other problem is how do you pay for this monster? in the house, what they do, is they increase taxes on the wealthy. now, in the senate, they don't like to raise taxes on the wealthy because the wealthy tend
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to right checks for senate campaigns which tend to be more expensive than house campaigns. in the senate, their version is to tax these high cost insurance plans, the cadillac plans. they don't like that in the house because union, folks in unions who don't get paid a lot in actual wages have negotiated over the years high cost insurance plans. so the unions don't like that they're putting pressure on the house. how they square those two is a big problem. there are issues about a drug benefit, medicare prices for drugs can be negotiated in the house plan. in the senate, they made a deal with the drug companies along with the white house to not have that be the case. that will also have to be reconciled. there are about a couple dozen other things as well. >> what areas do it they agree on? >> well, they agree on the big stuff. they would like us all to pay a lot of attention to what they agree on which is insuring 36 million people in the house bill, telling insurance companies, look, you can't deny people because of preexisting conditions. you can't stop care once you have treated them. and then all kinds of other
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provisions to get people to focus on wellness and improve their health care and reform the system in that way. so there is a lot they do agree on, too. >>gwen: there is health care debate as theory, and there is health care in the tangible present tense, especially if youre looking for a swine flu shot. and especially when you hear the white house use words like emergency to describe the vaccine shortage. so, first lets explain what the president meant when he declared the national emergency. marilyn? >> right, well the president did declare a national emergency when it comes to swine flu. really it's not as big a deal as one might think. it's more a technical matter. there are some rules and some regulations, for example. we're facing some capacity issues in hospitals when it comes to i.c.u. space, especially pediatric i.c.u. space because this is affecting kids a lot more than the regular seasonal flu would. so if we have capacity issues
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and hospitals find that they need to set up emergency sites off campus, say, even if it's just even in the parking lot, there are specific rules and regulations about how close that site has to be to the actual facility for the hospital to continue to receive payments from the government and programs like medicare. so, really, it's more of a technical matter when he declares emergency. gwen: marilyn, you spend your days up to your eyebrows in these stories yet you were in the middle of the story yourself as it were? >> i definitely was. i have two daughters. one of them already had swine flu earlier in the summer and i took my other daughter to one of these mass clinics at a high school in montgomery county, in maryland, to get the swine flu, the mist, it's not the shot. the shot, you can't find it
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anywhere. i did take her to get the mist and we were in line with about 999 of our closest friends and, fortunately, after about 2 1/2 hours, we walked out and she was vaccinated. but it was quite a scene with lots of police and lots of cones and lots of flashing lights and it was very orderly. but it really just shows you the significance and the importance of getting the vaccine. it also shows you the emphasis, because these were children. i would say that just about everybody there getting the vaccine was a child. as i mentioned before, 90% of the deaths are usually in seasonal flu, what we get, the flu we get every year, are in people who are 64 or older. in this case with swine flu, 90% of the deaths are in 64 or younger. >> the president and the white house said that they paid a lot of attention to this.
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there was a lot of planning. they promised there would be lots of doses. there didn't turn out to be as many as promised. why? >> there are several reasons. one of the big reasons is that we still make vaccines with chicken eggs. it's unpredictable. somewhere along the line, the seed, the actually antigen that the manufacturers got from the c.d.c., the centers for disease control doesn't work so well. the virus grew very slowly in the eggs and, therefore, it produced far fewer doses than one would expect. so in the end, we had a lot of the vaccine that was supposed to be coming, just not coming. we were supposed to see a lot of it in september and here we are at the very end of october and people are going crazy to try to get it. it's just not there. >> marilyn, you mentioned that your daughter had it in june. that was some months ago. is it fair to say that we're
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near the end of the pandemic? where are we in the sort of spectrum? >> the c.d.c. was saying today, they are having regular updates with the press and they were just saying today that we are not done with this, although they started -- they have started to see a decline in certain states, but nationally, we are still going p. we're still seeing many more cases. they don't expect this to be done right now. >> even if we pass this wave, there is very likely to be -- and we know this from past pandemics, a second wave that could hit more in the middle of the winter, maybe january, after the turn of the year. so we have a ways to go here. >> marilyn, how much do we know about this disease? i mean, i think that one of the reasons parents, you know, get so worried is that it's got this air of mystery about it. once the child actually has it, how dangerous is it compared to say having the seasonal flu? >> for a child it's much more
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dangerous because kids don't usually, don't get a lot of the seasonal flu. and when they do, it's not so bad. right now, unfortunately, as i mentioned, there have been over 100 deaths already for children in the united states for this flu. and what is really surprising is that while 2/3 of these kids that have died are -- have chronic conditions or somewhat ill, a third of them are perfectly well kids. gwen: thank you marilyn, i hope everybody in the house is fine. >> so far so good. gwen: the president today completed his seventh meeting with top military and political advisors on the choice ahead in afghanistan. at the same time, his secretary of state was traveling in pakistan absorbing complaint and doling out some of her own to a key ally telling newspaper editors she finds it hard to believe that somebody in pakistan didnt know of the al qaeda leaders in their midst. my newshour colleague margaret
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warner asked her about that today in islamabad >> are you saying there that you think there are people in significant positions in the government who are complicit in protecting them? >> no, but what i am saying -- and i think the context is as you portrayed it -- i respect their perceptions, whether or not they comport with what i believe to be the reality of their not trusting us on a range of issues. but in order to have the kind of partnership that we are seeking between our two countries, the trust deficit goes both ways. we have some questions of our own. gwen: it seems like hillary clinton is laying broader framework for the entire region. is that right? >> she landed in pakistan and she found violence there and a verbal fault from the pakistanis. the united states see themselves as annal lie to the pakistanis. the pakistanis see the americans
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as antagonizing the violence, contributing to the violence. she went to try to calm those fierce. gwen: they're suspicious of the aid package. >> it's a two-way street and that's where the comment came from. she is trying to open the dialogue and to have a candid discussion about what that criticism is. it's not from the united states' perspective, just the u.s. antagonizing forces there. it's the pakistanis not doing enough to thwart some of the forces that they created. gwen: one-two punch she is doing that while the president wrestles with what to do in afghanistan? >> we heard more leaks this week about where it's going. we're hearing that as many as 40,000 troops the president reportedly asked for a province to province report. a very violent week in
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afghanistan, 22 americans were killed in a two-day period including eight in southern afghanistan. we're starting to see that they're getting close to a decision on this plan. we don't know what it is yet. it's all being done behind closed doors. it comes at a time where he is really deciding how many troops he wants to commit and what is increasingly fragile and unpredictable situation. it's not just about afghanistan but it's about pakistan as well. >> what about the violence? is that related at all to his decision, u.s. troops, and what is it about the afghan, the violence in afghanistan that is new and different from what we have expected and learned about in, say, iraq over the years? >> it's remarkably different. in iraq, a fire fight that lasted 30 minutes was a long time. in afghanistan, an eight-hour fire fight is normal. the attack on the brigade out of fort lewis this week, it was a multiprong attack. they aren't planting an i.e.d.
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and running. then they are launching cruder, bigger i.e.d.'s under these vehicles and leading to more multiple casualties. that is different than iraq. generally the iraqi attack was a lot less simpler in terms of approach. it was a one-two punch pretty quickly. this is multifaceted. >> why have we not had a decision yet on the troops? when do we expect that? >> it's the $64,000 question in washington. the afghan election is slated for november 7. cnn is reporting tonight that an effort between abdullah abdullah who is hamid karzai's running mate to reach a power-sharing deal collapsed and perhaps he will back out of the election all together and putting everything sort of up in the air. that's a factor in all of this. i think the president is waiting to see where that comes. he has signaled that he is
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waiting to see where that comes down. but in addition as we talked about, he has an asia trip coming up in the next week. so the expectation now is that it will be between the 7th and 11th. if the power sharing deal has collapsed, that could complicate things further. >> the president actually went out to see the bodies of some of the slain soldiers coming back, very significant from a symbolic point of view. what is the impact of that decision? how does it play into the decision he ultimately makes? >> he went out to dover air force base which is where the fallen soldiers returned. he lifted the ban on the photo action of those ceremonies. it was an 18-year ban. this week he went out and met sergeant griffin who was one of the eight killed in the striker attack. gwen: his mother or his wife? >> he was a 29-year-old from indiana. gwen: he didn't meet him -- >> he saluted his remains.
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the message he said he was trying to convey is that he understands the gravity of this decision. every president should see a casket and having seen it in theater as they're being loaded on to the c-17 for the trip home, it is something that stays with you. it makes the war very personal. and the message was clear that at the end of the day he sacrificed the lives made. gwen: thanks everyone. we have to go now, but the conversation continues online. you can find our washington week webcast extra at and, beginning this week, you can become a fan of "washington week" on facebook. join the club. keep up with daily developments every night on the "newshour," and well see you right here, next week, on "washington week." good night. >> "washington week" was produced by weta which is solely responsible for its content.
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additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. the john hopkins business school. the annen berg foundation. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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